Status Report

NASA NEEMO 9 CDR Dave Williams Training Week Journal Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
April 8, 2006
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NASA NEEMO 9 CDR Dave Williams Training Week Journal Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wake-up at 6:30 and it’s a big day for the crew today with more diving training finishing off with a mask-off lost line drill! But, I’ll have more on that later. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal with apples and cinnamon, a couple of cups of coffee and a glass of orange juice, we all settled in to getting caught up on e-mail and crew journals. The week is going by quickly, it seems much faster than I remember from my first NEEMO mission in October 2001. The training from NEEMO 1 came back quickly and a number of exercises like the shut-down drills were pretty familiar.

Training activities started with photos of the crew and the topside team and continued with briefings on our communications masks, journal protocols, emergency radios, signaling devices and cave reel procedures for a lost diver to find an excursion line to get back to the habitat. We went outside to practice the cave reel procedures and also learned how to inflate a sausage buoy that we can deploy to the surface in the event of an emergency. The briefings finished at 11:15 but we didn’t have time for lunch, grabbing a quick snack while getting our dive gear ready for an 11:45 departure from the dock. The wind and waves were less than yesterday with a 2 – 3 foot swell bouncing us around on the ride out to Aquarius. We are all looking forward to getting into the habitat where we can go diving as easily as walking out the front door at home. To get into the water at Aquarius we step down stairs into the water on the wet porch, put on our dive gear and swim away!! The concept of the wet porch is somewhat similar to that of an inverted bucket underwater with air inside it where the air pressure is the same as the water pressure outside and stops water from entering the bucket.

The first dive of the afternoon was to find an excursion line and get back to the habitat using the cave reel technique we had learned earlier – except we had to perform the search without our face mask!! The swim down to the training site was more leisurely as the current from the day before had abated somewhat. Ross, one of our NURC instructors and fellow hab-tech, intentionally swam Nicole and I around in circles to try and get us lost. He did a pretty good job! We worked as a team to attach our cave reel to a piece of coral that became the center of our expanding search circle. However, before we could start the search he took our masks away and our visibility dropped significantly. Everything was pretty blurry as Nicole and I extended the cave reel and started the expanding circular search. We went around a full circle without success. With the salt water irritating our eyes, we started the second expanding circle and went three quarters of the way around to be rewarded by finding the excursion line. We then had to choose a direction back to Aquarius. We both agreed on the correct direction and started to swim back to the junction of another excursion line that would take us back to the habitat. Once we correctly pointed the way back to the habitat Ross gave us our masks back.

Ah relief!!! Once I cleared the mask my eyes were still a bit blurry from the salt water. We then went to practice more shut-down and out-of-air drills. The 50-minute dive finished so Ross and Otter could get to the surface and switch tanks as they were using single tanks and did not have as much as we did in our aquanaut diving rigs. We had a 10-minute break on the surface during which we practiced rescue breathing and we headed back down for the second dive. Once on the bottom Ross asked Nicole and I to buddy breathe, using one regulator passed back and forth between us while we swam. In keeping with the training objectives, this was done with our masks off. We proceeded along the excursion heading toward the habitat intermittently holding our breath and breathing from the regulator. Ross seemed happy with our technique and rewarded us with more mask off shut-down drills! With 15 minutes left in the dive we practiced deploying our sausage buoys, making sure we didn’t get snagged on them and pulled to the surface by mistake. All of us successfully accomplished the training objectives and we flopped onto the boat and did the dive debrief before heading to shore. Once back at NURC we had 45 minutes to clean our dive gear and get ready for more bench review of our experiment hardware. We were pretty tired when we finished by 7 p.m.!

By the time we finished dinner, phone calls and more e-mail we were ready for bed by 10. Tomorrow brings more dive training, this time using communication masks that allow us to talk to one another. Should be fun!

SpaceRef staff editor.